Power Pair: A writer father and politician daughter want everyone's stories told

man embraces woman
Rep. Samantha Sencer-Mura (DFL-Minneapolis) (left) with her father, writer David Mura in the Kling Public Media Center in St. Paul on Monday.
Matthew Alvarez | MPR News

Writer David Mura grew up in a Chicago suburb in the middle of the last century, learning, as he says, “how to be white.”  

It wasn’t until he was in his twenties that he began to explore his identity as a third-generation Japanese American. Over the years and in a dozen books, Mura has reflected on race, cultural identity, popular culture and how his family’s experience and the experiences of other non-white Americans were left out of the broad American story. 

Mura’s daughter, Rep. Samantha Sencer-Mura, Minneapolis-DFL, had a very different experience growing up in multiracial Minneapolis in the 1990s with her activist writer father. And, she’s found her own way to make sure everyone’s history is included. As a newly elected state legislator, she sponsored the legislation this spring that will require Minnesota high schools to offer classes in ethnic studies.

man stands next to woman holding baby
David Mura (left) with his grandson and daughter Samantha Sencer-Mura after she registered as a candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives. Rep. Sencer-Mura became the first Japanese American elected to the Minnesota state legislature last year.
Courtesy of David Mura

MPR News host Angela Davis talks with David Mura and Samantha Sencer-Mura about race, culture and storytelling.

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The conversation is part of the Power Pair series featuring prominent Minnesotans in a close relationship. Maybe they're siblings, a married couple or best friends. You may know of them separately but they reveal a whole new side of themselves when Angela Davis sits them down together. Listen to past interviews and suggest your own future Power Pair duo here.


  • David Mura is a writer and has taught creative writing and literature at the University of Minnesota, St. Olaf College and elsewhere. He’s published two memoirs, a novel, several books of poetry and several books of essays including, “The Stories Whiteness Tells Itself: Racial Myths and Our American Narratives.”

  • Samantha Sencer-Mura lives in south Minneapolis and last year became the first Japanese American elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives. She was previously executive director at 826 MSP, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center in the Twin Cities focused on students of color.

three people in broadcast studio
Angela Davis, left, talks with another duo in her power pair series, writer David Mura and his daughter Rep. Samantha Sencer-Mura (DFL-Minneapolis) in an MPR News studio in the Kling Public Media Center in St. Paul on Monday.
Maja Beckstrom | MPR News

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Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.    

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.